London is a different country

Among the more detailed numbers published yesterday by the DfE in the plethora of statistics about the school workforce in November 2018 was a breakdowns of the data by individual school; by local authority and by region of the country, with London further subdivided into Inner and Outer London, thus making ten regions in all.

In many respects the teacher workforce in London, and especially Inner London, is very different to the workforce in the rest of England. London is often regarded, along with New York, and a few other places, as a mega-city that is substantially different to its surrounding areas. To allow for comparison purposes, I have included data on the teacher workforce for Oxfordshire and the average for England as a whole in a table shown below.

  Inner London Inner London rank Outer London Outer London

rank

England

(Average)

Oxfordshire
% Male teachers 28.2% 1 25.6% 6 25.9% 24.3%
% Ethnic minority teachers 44.4% 1 37.8% 2 14.0% 9.6%
PTR (Overall) 15.7 1 17.7 =2 18.0 18.3
% part-time teachers 15.2% 10 19.8 8 23.7% 33.3%
% teachers 50+ 15.8% 10 18.2% 8 17.6% 20.7%
Average salary £45,285 1 £42,647 2 £39,504 £38,372
% of teachers with an allowance 43.6% 1 40.% 2 35.8% 31.7%
% teachers with one period of sickness 57.8% 1 56.4% 2 54.4% 52.3%
% schools reporting a vacancy 20.7% 2 23.1% 1 11.1% 10.7%

Source: DfE School Workforce Census tables. Note there are ten region including two for London.

Inner London is at the extreme in all aspect considered in the table, only ceding first or last place to Outer London in respect of the percentage of schools reporting a vacancy. With separate distinct pay rates, it is not surprising to find London toping the average salary figures, but it is perhaps more surprising to find it the top region for male teachers, with more than a quarter of teachers being men, compared to only just over 24% in Oxfordshire.

The other outstanding percentage is for the percentage of non-White teachers employed. Approaching one in two teachers in Inner London, and more than a third in Outer London, are from ethnic minority non-white backgrounds. This compares to less than 10% of teachers with such backgrounds in Oxfordshire.

Despite paying higher salaries, London schools also manage to have the most favourable Pupil Teacher Ratios in England, some three pupils per teacher better in Inner London than in Oxfordshire. This is despite the many small schools in Oxfordshire, and does indicate the funding difference between London schools and those in much of the rest of England.

Additionally, it may well be that as a result of better funding teachers in London are more likely to receive an allowance than those elsewhere in England. However, this may also be part of a drive to ensure schools are fully staffed. If so, it is only working to some degree, as London schools, and especially those in Outer London, are more likely to report a vacancy than schools anywhere else in England.

Based upon these figures, it is imperative that Ministers and civil servants look beyond London when assessing information about the teacher workforce, and especially when reviewing claims about the funding of schools.

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Vacancies still a concern

The recent data on the workforce in state schools at the time of the 2018 School Workforce Census conducted by the DfE shows vacancies rates overall at similar levels to the previous year in percentage terms, but on the increase in terms of absolute numbers. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/school-workforce-in-england-november-2018

Given that the data is collected in November, when schools ought to be fully staffed, any vacancy is of concern. Data from before 2010 was collected each January, when vacancy levels might be expected to be affected by those teachers that departed at the end of December and how easy it was to replace them.

Nevertheless, the 1,725 recorded vacancies in the secondary sector in November 2018 was the highest number since 2014, and more than three times the level recorded in 2011, after the financial crisis. Vacancy levels fell in mathematics between 2017 and 2018. This can partly be attributed to the subject having a relatively good year in terms of ITT recruitment in 2015-15 that fed through to recruitment for teaching posts in September 2018. I expect the ground gained between 2017 and 2018 in mathematics to be lost in the 2019 census, with little indication of any improvement in 2020.

Business studies has the largest percentage vacancy level. The subject includes both commercial studies and economics.  It remain a mystery to me why this important subject group for the British Economy does not attract more help for trainee teachers through the scholarship/bursary scheme. Mr Hunt’s idea of paying off student loans for young entrepreneurs seems only likely to make the situation worse if it was implemented. Indeed, I have yet to hear about a solution to the teacher recruitment problem from either of the candidates for the Troy Party leadership.

The other measure of concern is that of the percentage of hours taught in a typical week to pupils in Years 7 to 13 by teachers with no relevant post-A Level qualification. The trend in many secondary subjects continues to worsen, even among EBacc subjects, where recruitment into ITT is buoyant. However, that may be due to changes in teaching methods as much as to a shortage of teachers in history and geography. Where schools employ a classroom teacher approach to some or all of their pupils, generally either Year 7 pupils or those having trouble learning in large classes, these teachers may not be specialists, and this can cause the number of hours taught be a non-specialist in a subject to increase for perfectly sensible reasons.

Of more concern, and not provided in the Tables, would be any evidence of increasing levels of teachers lacking subject knowledge teaching groups in Years 11 to13. Although even here a case can sometimes be made on the basis of teaching experience and non-formally acquired subject knowledge, such as through high quality Professional Development activities.

Within the detailed tables, there is far more data on these matters, but it will take a little more time to work through the data. However, there is no room for complacency over retention and every reason, as the school population increase over the next few years to continue to express serious concern at the trends emerging in relation to mid-career retention of teachers.

 

 

 

Treasury woes

Teacher recruitment crises are not a new phenomenon in England. Indeed, almost 30 years ago, at the start of the 1990s, the country was experiencing a very similar sort of teacher recruitment and retention crisis to that seen now. As a result, it is interesting to revisit the comments made by the then Interim Advisory Committee on Teachers’ Pay and Conditions, the forerunner of the present School Teachers’ Review Body, and the successor to the Burnham Committee.

In Chapter 6 of their 1991 report, at paragraph 7.13 the IAC said:

Our final key principle has been to support the provision of proper rewards for additional responsibilities and high performance. Put, bluntly, the teaching profession is no different from any other in needing to recruit and retain effective and ambitious people. Whatever the details of the pay structure, it seems self-evident to us that if adequate levels of differential rewards are not available, as they increasingly are elsewhere, then there will be serious difficulties in tackling the recruitment and retention problems we have highlighted.

(IAC, 4th Report January 1991 para 7.13 page 49)

I found this comment of interest, as I discovered it when I was trying to determine whether more teachers had access to allowances now than at that time before devolved budgets and the total freedom for schools to decide how to pay their teachers. At that time, in the early 1990s, although the pay scales were different and local management of schools was on the horizon, there was still a national structure for responsibility payments, and schools had little choice over the number of such posts that they could create. School size, as determined by the number and age of the pupils, was the key source factor affecting the chance of promotion for a teacher.

Interestingly, a quick look at DfE statistics for both 1989 and 2013, suggests that far more teachers in secondary schools than in primary schools had access to payments above their main scale salary in 1989, and that in both sectors the percentage of teachers paid above the main scale was higher in 1989 than in 2013. Additionally, in 2013, you were less likely to receive a TLR if you worked in an academy than if you worked in a maintained school.

Since 2013, the DfE has changed how it reports teachers’ pay, and it now uses cash amounts in bands as the reporting measure that doesn’t allow an easy identification of the percentage of teachers paid a TLR in addition to their main salary.

Of course, a few teachers have benefited from an opening up of extra posts on the Leadership Scale. But, could this lack of incentives, suggested as important by the IAC in 1991, be partly responsible for the problems with retention in years five to seven of a teacher’s career that have become a feature of recent years?

Conservative politicians, as the previous post on this blog has noted, are aware that current funding for schools is not only insufficient to pay support staff their pay award but also to reward and retain teachers in many parts of the country. The problem is, where to find the cash to pay for schools to recruit and retain effective and ambitious people, the same requirement as the IAC pointed out all those years ago.

 

 

Education matters

Last evening saw the termly meeting of the APPG (All Party Parliamentary Group) on the Teaching Profession at Westminster. Chris Waterman has continued to do sterling work with this Group that morphed out of a previous ad hoc gathering, primarily established to discuss issues surrounding the teacher labour market as the country moved from surplus to shortage. No doubt those that attended had to ensure they dodged the TV cameras as they made their way through Central Lobby to the committee room for the meeting.

As I had other duties in Oxford, I was unable to attend last evening’s meeting, but did provide Chris will some extracts from recent relevant posts on this blog to distribute to those that were able to attend.

For those with even longer memories that stretch back beyond the creation of SATTAG by Chris and myself, they will recall that this blog started soon after I stopped writing a weekly column for the then TES, now branded as tes. After more than a decade of writing for that paper, I was suffering withdrawal symptoms, and a blog seem a good way to relieve them in a manner that didn’t take up much time.

Of course, the big concern at this present time must be about where the candidates for leadership of the Conservative Party stand on Education? For selection at eleven; complete academisation; more pay for teachers; cash for Children’s Centres? We all have a list of what we would want to ask our next Prime Minister, but are only likely to be able to do so through the professional associations taking a lead and quizzing the eventual finalist on behalf of the profession.

From the candidates’ point of view, they might want to reflect that being too radical can affect what will happen in the real world. Make teaching look too unattractive, and the present teacher supply problem could become even worse, especially if the exodus from the profession were to accelerate. With insufficient numbers entering the profession, losing those already in service at an even greater rate than at present wouldn’t just be unfortunate, but could be disastrous for both our society and the future of the economy.

Teaching is now a global activity and teachers trained in England are able to secure posts in many other countries in the ever-growing private school market of ‘international’ schools, increasingly run by those with the bottom line in mind. With UK higher education an attractive draw for many overseas students and their parents, being taught by teachers that understand the system here can be a help when it is time to apply to university.

So, my key question for Tory Candidates’ is, what support will you provide for your Secretary of State for Education and what will be the key priorities you will ask that person to address? If they don’t mention all of Further Education; funding levels and staffing then education will clearly not be a significant priority for them in the word post October 31st.

 

Focus is now on September

When schools re-open tomorrow, they should know the extent of any challenges they face to ensure a fully staffed curriculum for this September, barring any last minute accidents. Although unusual in nature, the long lead time for resignations does allow for schools to have the best part of three months to fill any last minute vacancies. Compare this with say, the NHS, where officials told a meeting I was at last week of staff only required to provide a month’s notice, but recruitment taking as long as three month. Even for January vacancies, schools generally have two months to find a replacement.

By the end of May, TeachVac http://www.teachvac.co.uk had recorded an average of 7 advertisements per secondary school in England for main grade teachers. For schools in London, the average was even higher, at just over 9 advertisements per school. To balance this, in the North West, the average was a little under 4.5 advertisements per school.

Add in the primary sector and promoted posts and the overall total so far in 2019 for vacancies has already exceeded the 40,000 mark.

As already recorded on this blog, a number of subjects are classified by TeachVac as carrying a ‘Red’ warning. This means schools anywhere in England can expect increasing difficulties in recruiting a teachers for either September 2019 or January 2020.

Based upon the latest recruitment data from UCAS, for graduate teacher preparation courses starting in September 2019, and discussed in a previous post on this blog, it seems likely that the 2020 recruitment round in many subjects in the secondary school curriculum is not going to be any easier than the 2019 round, especially as pupil numbers will be higher than this year.

The labour market for primary classroom teachers looks to be more stable than for secondary classroom teachers, although there are still issues with particular posts in certain locations.

Even if the EU is no longer a source of teacher supply, and some other countries have stopped training far more teachers than they need, it seems likely that attracting teachers from overseas will be a key route to filling January vacancies. However, competition in what is now a global teaching market is much greater than in the past, so teaching will need to be a competitive career or risk not only recruitment issues but also problems with retention levels as well, especially for middle leadership posts in expensive areas of the country.

 

TeachVac has more jobs

I was interested to read in the DfE’s Recruitment Bulletin that ‘Teaching vacancies’, the official job listing service from DfE, now has over 45% of all schools in England signed up to advertise their vacant teaching posts. Of course, signed up schools isn’t the same as the share of advertised vacancies the site has achieved, still totaling at less than half of the level of TeachVac’s vacancy totals.

Compared to TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk , the original free listing service for teaching vacancies, where I am Chair of the Board, the DfE site is still playing catch-up. For instance, the DfE has only now launched a new job alerts function, enabling job-seeking teachers to get up to date notifications of suitable posts in their chosen location. This was something build in to TeachVac from the start.

As the DfE points out, ’Teaching vacancies’ is an official government service and trusted source, so no personal data will be shared or sold on to third parties. The latter has always been true for TeachVac. We match teachers to jobs, but that’s all we do with the data. Indeed, TeachVac doesn’t hold any personal data on teachers except for a username and password.

The most important difference for schools between the two sites is that TeachVac doesn’t require schools to do anything for their vacancies to appear, whereas the DfE requires schools to input vacancies, taking time and effort to do so.

The other problem the DfE faces is building up users of the site. TeachVac has several years start on the DfE, and the paid for sites even longer. Maybe this is why the DfE’s latest ITT Recruitment Bulletin says, ‘Please help to promote the service to your newly qualified teachers’. The message is even blunter in another place ‘Please encourage your trainees to start using this service rather than paid-for alternatives’.

With less than two weeks to the end of the main recruitment round for September, this seems a bit late to be having to ask ITT providers to persuade trainees to use the DfE service. We know that many trainees and teachers already use TeachVac at no cost to the public purse, and they should have no reason to switch to the DfE site.

Earlier in the recruitment round TeachVac offered to supply the DfE with the vacancies they were missing, as TeachVac still has more than twice as many teaching posts added every day compared to the DfE’s site. Until the DfE reaches similar numbers of vacancies to TeachVac, teachers looking for a teaching post will always see a larger range of vacancies on TeachVac than on the DfE’s site.

The recruitment market for teachers is changing and it is interesting to see the DfE trying to nationalise the free recruitment of teaching vacancies using taxpayer’s cash to do so. But, we live in odd political times where former norms don’t always make sense these days

 

Non to EBacc recruitment?

Schools don’t want EBacc teachers. Apart from mathematics, where recruitment into training was poor for last September (as has already been noted), schools seeking to fill vacancies in the other main Ebacc subjects aren’t having the same issues as they are with recruitment in some non-Ebacc subjects.

Computer Science will be the next Ebacc subject to see a Red Warning posted on TeachVac, www.teachvac.co.uk but it will be a close run thing with Religious Education as to which subject reaches the level of a red warning first.

The Ebacc subjects of history, geography and modern languages are still a long way away from seeing any posting of a red warning, and even English and the Sciences overall still have a distance to go before we reach that level of concern. However, schools looking for specific curriculum experience will always find the pool smaller than the overall total.

As ever, in determining the outcome of this recruitment round, much depends upon the numbers seeking to return to teaching after a career break and the rate of departure from the profession.

The DfE could do far more with ‘Keep in Touch‘ schemes for those leaving and the STRB might want to look at reversing the rule that a salary on departure for a career break isn’t protected. Schools can look at offering other less demanding roles for those on a career break to earn some money once maternity leave has finished, such as invigilating, lesson planning or even help with marking. Some of these tasks can be undertaken at home and can provide extra cash, as might helping with one to one tuition. Helping teachers keep in touch and stay up to date is a certain way of ensuring a greater rate of return to the profession probably earlier than in some other circumstances.

The balance between small sixth form numbers and growing KS3 numbers is also causing headaches for some schools, and no doubt adding to the financial problems some schools are facing. In a more cooperative age, schools might pool timetables in minority subjects. This is another area where competition and devolved budgets make sensible arrangements more of a challenge to organise than when there was a great willingness to make the best use of limited resources. Now the demand is for more resources as the only way forward.

How are schemes to recruit and retain teachers from the EU faring? It might be worth a PQ or two from some MP to ascertain what the DfE think is happening compared with recent recruitment rounds? And how are overseas teachers from what one might call the Gove countries reacting to the need for teachers in England? Are we seeing more Australian, New Zealand, Canadian and US teachers than in recent years flooding to our shores?

This week looks set to be the peak of the 2109 recruitment round with probably 6-7,000 new vacancies posted by schools during the course of the week.